Platypus Musings: Thoughts on the Quinnspiracy

First, I must confess that I do not follow the current generation of video games or gaming journalism and have not for years. To be brutally honest, I feel that I live in a time warp where the nineties never ended and thus I pay more attention to what Nintendo releases on the Virtual Console and retrogaming from the fourth to sixth generations. However, I find the controversy over Zoe Quinn and her exploits has aroused my attention because of the firestorm that erupted from it. To the six or seven who have not heard about it yet–Eron Gjoni, Ms. Quinn’s former boyfriend aired his dirty laundry about how she cheated on him with five other men. Something I would not normally condone because of how petty and vindictive it is but the interesting part of the post is one of the men she slept with was her boss, Joshua Boggs, another was Nathan Grayson, who writes or wrote for Kotaku and RockPaperShotgun, and the other three being independent developers. With Ms. Quinn being an independent developer herself, now (in)famous for Depression Quest, the implication now is that gaming journalism and the independent gaming scene itself is rife with neoptism, elitism, and no one is familiar with the term “conflict of interest.” It appears that the masses are rising up against them and the aforementioned Kotaku, RockPaperShotgun, as well as the Escapist, Destructoid and other gaming news sites are circling the wagons.

Another thing I must make clear is that I do not identify myself as a feminist. Like the good reverend Martin Luther King Jr., I believe that people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin or the the chromosome they had received at conception. This group called The Fine Young Capitalists wanted to start a production that would promote female developers, something I actually believe would be an excellent opportunity for any woman to get her foot in the door– except Ms. Quinn torpedoed it. TFYC stated that they would create concept art for them to pitch their game, people on the Internet would vote on what game they wanted, and TFYC would produce said game without cost. The winner would receive 8% in royalties and the rest would go to charity. Somehow Ms. Quinn deemed this “oppressive” because “they expected women to work for free.” Apparently Ms. Quinn refused to consider that being the winning entry would look good on the winner’s resume. I mean, people use volunteer work as experience on their resumes doing things they feel passionate about, why not games? In any case, Ms. Quinn destroyed a perfectly good promotion that benefited women to suit her ideological ends.

As Internet Aristocrat mentioned in my previous link, the gaming media has taken a “social justice” flavor that paints the vast majority of gamers as misogynistic troglodytes. The trouble with so-called “social justice” and its acolytes that dub themselves “warriors” is that their thinking restricts itself to binary think. From what I have seen on Tumblr (and needed to take a cold shower afterwards), Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) believe there are two categories of people: the oppressors, who are typically white cis males, and the oppressed/victims, who are everybody body else. The oppressors are responsible for everything that is wrong with society (i.e. the patriachy, for one) and the victims are not responsible for their actions because it is always the oppressors fault and never theirs. In the case of Ms. Quinn, she intertwined her professional life, something that is largely public, with her private like when she got under the sheets with Boggs and Grayson who were contemporaries of hers. Yes, Eron Gjoni did a something horrible by exposing her infidelities, but it solely Ms. Quinn’s fault for compromising what little professional integrity she had by sleeping with (allegedly) five guys. However, I believe that Zoe Quinn sees herself as a perpetual victim of “the system” and thus absolved of any responsibility of her actions. In some ways her mewling over her private life is an implicit suggestion that she sees herself as an inferior in need of an army of (mostly white cis male) white knights to defend her. An irony that is not lost on me because the idea of a woman dependent on males to defend her honor strikes me as very anti-feminist.

In the end, I believe that video gamers are tired of the gaming media talking down to them and decrying them for being misogynists over actions of trolls. Forbes writer, Paul Tassi, seems to be indicative of how detached gaming journalists are from their audience when he says:

In truth, no one wants you to be completely unbiased, as that’s usually inescapably dull. They just want you to have their bias. Right now, the general consensus of the games press is to be extremely biased against those who use terms like “White Knight” and “Social Justice Warrior,” often the same people who will harass and threaten and psychologically destroy those in the industry, or often the press themselves.

And yet it is so easy to look the other way when Zoe Quinn send her pals in the video game press corps to ban a group that wanted to showcase women in video games from Twitter and dox one of the organizers.

Their hypocrisy is galling, but at least the gaming press will learn a painful lesson (assuming they are capable): those that sow the wind will reap the hurricane. The media is nothing without the trust of its reader/viewership and in their attempts to suppress an honest discussion of this issue by issuing bans, the they only make themselves appear guiltier.

As for me, I think I will go play some Super Metroid  because as a misogynist white cis male gamer, I hate playing a game with a woman as a protagonist.

Advertisements

Platypus Musings: The Better Sonic Game (For The Genesis.)

I am a Sonic the Hedgehog fan and I am not ashamed of it, despite the fandom’s rather unpleasant reputation it has earned over the past few years. Allow me to make my intentions clear: this post is my opinion, which–for better or for worse–is largely influenced by nostalgia and sentimentality rather than objective analysis. I have no specific area of interest; I read the comic books published by Archie; I play whichever games I find appealing; and I am a fan of the animated series that aired on ABC back in the nineties. However, the original Genesis trilogy (I lump in Sonic & Knuckles with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 because they were intended to be one game) will always hold a special place in my heart. When I look at “Top XX Sega Genesis Games” list online, it usually comes to either Sonic 2 or Sonic 3&K. Both are awesome games in my books with colorful and vivid graphics that were an improvement over the original game (which was no slouch either) as well as memorable music and tight controls. But when it comes down to which game I prefer, I would go with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. While the first two games were iconic, the combine third and fourth games were an experience.

My affinity for Sonic 3 goes back to late January of 1994 when my family went to the Garden Island, otherwise known as Kauai, to escape the bitter Canadian winter. I recall visiting the Sears at Kukui Grove Shopping Center in Lihue (which has since closed, sadly) where I found Sega Genesis on display with Sonic 3 in the cartridge slot, the strange part is that it had a copy of the game running days before its official release date: February 2, Groundhog Day–make that Hedgehog Day. Though my 10-year-old self probably did not care, he just blasted through the Angel Island Zone and Hydrocity. Well, to tell you the truth, I sucked at the game at the time but it left an impression on me. It was part of a larger experience that included fun at the beach, parties with the whole family, and enjoying the verdant beauty of the island, which is part of the reason I asked for a Sega Genesis that Christmas–so I could get a copy of Sonic 3 to remember that trip in some small way. Unfortunately, that did not happen until eighteen months later until Mom bought me a copy of the game from a Kaybee Toys in Washington State though I do not recall the exact location. 

Sentimentality aside, there other reasons why I preferred Sonic 3 & Knuckles to Sonic 2. In terms of graphics, the sprites where slightly more detailed with a gradient that made Sonic and Tails stand out better against the background, and speaking of which, the levels–The Angel Island Zone had quite a lot to live up too considering the Green Hill’s iconic status as the tropical wonderland. Personally, I preferred Angel Island slightly more. While I love the checkered landscape of the Green Hill, Angel Island seemed more more lush with its verdant foliage (the reminds me a bit of Kauai) with the mellow beat of  the bongos. Emerald Hill, on the other hand, was a rehash of its predecessor whose background music lacked the “get up and go” of Green Hill. Another aspect that I like about Angel Island ties into another part I liked about Sonic 3. Back when I was playing through Sonic 3 in the Sears at Kukui, I (finally) reached the halfway point of Act 1 where the mini-boss descends from the sky. I try to hit him when a whole fleet of mini-bosses firebombs the stage. My thoughts at the time were probably this:

10-Year-Old Me: Holy $#!^!

Mom: Watch your language!

Something I believe many people overlook about Sonic 3 is that it was the first game that was trying to tell a story. The first two games broke the action when you finished a level or beat the boss by showing the title card for the next level and BAM! you are in the next level without the game telling you why. Whereas in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, after you beat the boss for each level, there is a reason why you ended up there and why you needed to be there. For example, after you beat Robotnik in Angel Island, Knuckles blows the bridge and Sonic (with Tails) plunge down a waterfall to Hydrocity. Similarly, in Hydrocity, after Robotnik runs away with his tail between his legs, a large jet of water sends the two flying toward Marble Garden and in the case of Sky Sanctuary, Knuckles takes Sonic and Tails there so they can catch up with and board the Death Egg. Momentum was always an integral part of the Sonic games and the story told in Sonic 3 & Knuckles gives the game a larger sense or momentum and urgency to it. Factor in the addition of the three shields (Fire, Lightning, and Water), the different gameplay mechanics of Tails and Knuckles, and the larger levels with more branching paths, the game feels like a more complete experience than its predecessors.

That is not to say the first two games are not as fun to play, they are every bit as entertaining. As an aspiring writer myself, I like it when the game attempts to frame a story around it without becoming cumbersome, and despite the comparatively primitive technology at the time, Sonic 3 & Knuckles performs admirably well, especially without using dialogue and letting the player’s imagination fill in the gaps. Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 simply do not engage me that way. I enjoy blasting through the Green Hill or Chemical Plant Zones as much as any Sonic fan. I plan to dust off my Genesis and play them again in the future but Sonic 3 will always be my favorite because of the impression it left on me.

All-New Marvel NOW, same as the last.

avengers-now-poster

Despite what I have said about Marvel absolutely killing the DC/Warner Bros. giant when it comes to superhero movies, their comic books are another matter completely. Though it is not exactly news anymore, most comic fans are aware of a woman taking up Mjolnir and Thor’s role as the goddess of Thunder and Sam Wilson (AKA the Falcon) taking up the mantle of Captain America now that Steve Rogers is showing his age now that a supervillain sucked to Super-Soldier from his veins. However, I recently came across this GIF via the Facebook group, “Has DC Done Something Stupid Today?” (Odds are yes.) In it, “Marvel” proudly declares in all caps

MARVEL: NEW FEMALE THOR

DC: I didn’t-

MARVEL: NEW BLACK CAPTAIN AMERICA

MARVEL: TAKE ALL THIS COOL SH*T MARVEL BE OUTIE!

MARVEL: PEACE

Pardon me if I must say that I can barely contain my indifference because it feels like Marvel retreading old ideas taken from the eighties and nineties. This is not the first time Odin has deemed Thor unworthy and this is not the first time that a woman has held Mjolnir, as Wonder Woman did in the likely non-canon DC vs. Marvel crossover from 1996 and Odin subjected Thor to the gender bender in the post-apocalyptic Earth X. As for Sam Wilson taking up the Star-Spangled Shield, it makes sense. He has been an associate and partner of Cap since the late sixties, after all. However, this is the second time Marvel has replaced Steve Rogers in a decade. Remember The Death of Captain America from 2007? A brainwashed Sharon Carter assassinated Steve Rogers shortly after the end of Civil War. (But as with most superheroes, he got better.) James Buchanan Barnes AKA Bucky AKA The Winter Soldier took up the mantle and actually held onto it for four years until Fear Itself in 2011. Marvel wants its readers to believe the shake up of the status quo will have a lasting impact on the comics, but I find that hard to believe when the House of Ideas is doing a little recycling. To be rather blunt, these press releases leave me rather skeptical that there will be a lasting impact. I admit Captain America’s death lasted and had an impact but then they hype the death of the Human Torch, then the death of Peter Parker to make way for the Superior Spider-Man, and now the Death of Wolverine. The former three came back, why should I believe the world’s most populate Canadian will take the dirt nap for long?

In some ways, I see it as denial on Marvel’s part. Despite the ubiquity of superheroes in film, television, and other forms of marketing, none of that has translated into a long-term rise in sales within their native medium. DC Comics is just as guilty, but it is becoming so obvious on Marvel’s part. For all this talk of “diversity” (something I find lacking in comics, I admit) all this crowing about “NEW FEMALE THOR” and “NEW BLACK CAPTAIN AMERICA” comes off as crass marketing and attention-seeking by paying the barest lip service. Especially when we know that Thor will pick up Mjolnir again and Steve Rogers will regain the Super-Soldier Serum eventually.

Sorry Marvel, as a firm believer in the Status Quo is God, I am not biting.

Platypus Musings: The Sad State of DC Comics

One of my favorite bloggers and web-voyeur, Sean CW Korsgaard, recently posted his review of the recently released Guardians of the Galaxy film and gave Marvel its much-deserved props for moving outside its comfort zone. However, in his introduction he made note of DC Comics/Warner Bros. “flail in its attempts” to hype Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (featuring Wonder Woman and half the Justice League.) I would have taken exception to that ten years ago as I was a rabid DC fan who believed Geoff Johns could do no wrong with his inaugural runs of Flash, JSA, and the upcoming Green Lantern: Rebirth. However, now that I am older and supposedly wiser, my fanaticism for DC has waned. While I still love Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and even lesser names like the Atom, Hawkman, and Firestorm, the company has been one colossal disappointment after another for at least the past few years. And no, I never really liked Batman. I could never identify with a multi-billionaire whose hobbies include brooding in a guano-filled cave and beating up criminals because of his freudian issues…

…but I digress.

Count me among the fans who are frustrated by the flaccid performance of 2011’s Green Lantern and the adequate-at-best Man of Steel. Marvel has been become a Hollywood juggernaut and a darling with fans while their distinguished competition sputters along. Even Wonder Woman, one of the comic book medium’s most iconic characters, cannot get a movie because, “she doesn’t have the single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes” said DC Entertainment Chief, Diane Nelson, last year. I say that is a steaming load and I am reasonably certain that many of my fellow fans would agree. If DC has one major strength, it has prominent female characters who are not distaff counterparts of a male character (i.e. Wonder Woman and Black Canary) whereas Marvel’s best effort is Black Widow whose ability to carry a movie by herself is questionable (with no disrespect intended to the talented Scarlett Johansson.) Granted, there are rumors that a Wonder Woman movies is on DC’s slate, I am pessimistic over whether DC and Warner Bros. could pull it off or not.

My main problem with DC is that they are complacent and believe that they cannot do any wrong, or at least they give me that impression. I recall how Christian Hoffer of the Outhouse, a site that specializes in satire, wrote that DC denied their requests for interviews based on the site’s biting criticism towards them. Granted, Marvel has demonstrated a similar predilection towards journalists, I believe that there is something terribly rotten with DC’s management when they reboot their universe to bring in new fans yet they paradoxically tell creators that they publish comics for forty-five year olds and likewise consider having only five percent of their readers claim to be new a success when they rolled out the New 52. To be blunt, it feels like DC Comics wants me to be grateful that they casually swept aside so many of the stories and irrevocably altered characters I enjoyed. Similarly, the vibe I get from the publicity pertaining to Dawn of Justice is they want me to be grateful that they are stuffing Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg into a movie they have no real place in.

It seems that DC Comics wants to do too much, too fast in its race against Marvel. Though I believed that Ryan Reynolds would have made an excellent Hal Jordan/Green Lantern with the right script and direction, they should have reserved Parallax for another film and possibly saved the Green Lantern Corps for the mid-credits stinger. (I would also like to say that the film would have failed for the same reasons if they had used John Stewart as the main protagonist.) Man of Steel suffered from the same problems where it could not decide whether it wanted to be like the Dark Knight trilogy or the more action-oriented Avengers. That is probably the sad part of all this, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is more of a spiritual successor to Richard Donner’s Superman from 1978 than any of DC’s recent offerings. It seems that Marvel knows what direction it was to take with its cinematic universe just as Donner had a vision for what he wanted to do with Superman though Edgar Wright’s departure from Ant-Man over “creative differences” demonstrates that it is not all lollipops and rainbows. I knew that they were reaching for something bigger and exciting when I saw that after-credit scene from the first Iron Man movie. I cannot say I get that feeling from Man of Steel or Dawn of Justice.

I am sorry DC–actually, scratch that, why should I apologize? You have to earn my affection and my money if you are going to release any films based on your characters. While I thoroughly enjoy Arrow and eagerly await Flash, you really need to get your act together and stop tripping over yourself in your race to get Justice League to theaters. I plan to watch Guardians of Galaxy, and when I do, I will quietly lament the potential you are squandering.

The Prodigious Files: The Avessi

Every superhero universe needs god-like aliens who take an interest in Earth or the human race in my estimation. The DC Universe has the New Gods (who are more like living abstract ideas if my reading of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis is accurate, but I digress), Marvel has the Celestials, Doctor Who has the Time Lords, and so forth. I am also borrowing a little from the Metroid series by making the alien gods of Prodigious avian-themed like the Chozo, hence their name: the Avessi. They are roughly humanoid in shape, bipedal with opposable thumbs and fingers to physically manipulate objects, and feathers cover the majority of their bodies with a crest on the back of their head like a blue jay. Their closest terrestrial counterparts in terms of appearance and genetics are the family corvidae, though a race similar to the accipitridae family (eagles and hawks) existed as well. In terms of intelligence, the Avessi were the most advanced race in the Local Group and developed psionic abilities such as telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation. However, as their physical abilities diminished as their mental abilities increased and became reliant on them for mobility and communication. Most of their technology operates on a mental interface rather than keys, switches, or dials. This interface is incompatible with most species, except for baseline humans and ultrahumans though the interface requires a disciplined mind to operate it properly.

Their home world remains unknown because their civilization lasted for billions of years–long enough for the parent star to enter its red giant phase. The last known “nest world” was Qwyll, which the minotaur-like Khrunn decimated and stripped clean approximately one-hundred thousand years ago. Ninety-five percent of the Avessi population died in the raids but a small group took refuge in the Sol System where they fully terraformed Venus and partially terraformed Mars (as well as the Galilean moons of Jupiter and Titan.) The Avessi have had contact with early humans and even conducted experiments that resulted in the premature appearance of homo sapiens ultra.

Read the rest of this entry

Introduction to the Prodigious Universe

Welcome to what I hope is the first in series of posts on a superhero project that I have worked on for over a decade. It has gone by two other names while I worked on it, The Baldur Saga and Platinum Dawn, but I ultimately chose Prodigious as a tribute to both Marvel and Awesome comics. For those unfamiliar with the latter, Awesome Comics was an imprint founded by Rob Liefeld renowned largely for Alan Moore’s run on Supreme, a pastiche that celebrated Superman’s history rather than deconstruct it. I grew up reading my mother’s old issues of Action and Adventure Comics, Superman, Superboy, and her Gold Key comics like Magnus, Robot Fighter so I had an appreciation for DC Comics’ Silver Age and see Alan Moore’s Supreme one of the most underrated works of the late nineties. Granted, the stories of Mort Weisinger’s era are silly and crude by contemporary standards but they had a whimsical charm and sense of wonder. Many mainstays of the Superman mythos like Supergirl, Bizzaro, the Bottle City of Kandor come from that era and echo on into the twenty-first century. Anything seemed possible and a certain optimism flowed from the titles. One of the things I wanted to accomplish with Prodigious is keep that wonder and optimism but retain some modern sensibilities without the cynicism and carnage.

There is both Golden and Silver Age of Superheroes with various parallel characters. There is–or rather, was a Superman counterpart (whose fate I will address in later posts), Batman and Wonder Woman counterparts who are supporting characters in the Welcome to Apex Falls series (more on that later as well), counterparts to the Justice League/Avengers, Fantastic Four, and even the Authority. However, they are not the main focus of the Prodigious universe. It became clear to me that many of the characters were–well, too generic to be interesting on their own so I rebuilt the universe from the ground up.

Read the rest of this entry

The Saga Begins

Greetings, welcome to my latest go at blogging!

For the uninitiated, my name is Patrick Benjamin Mains but I generally prefer that people call me “Ben” online. I am thirty years old, a lifelong Albertan, and writer-at-large. I graduated from the University of Lethbridge in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in English with aspirations of working in the library sciences as a library technician. My main area of interest as a writer is science fiction and of superheroes in particular, so it should go without saying that I am a fan of both DC and Marvel comics. Personally, I do not have aspirations to work for either because I would rather pursue the independent route like Robert Kirkman and have creative control over my work. Part of it has to do with the fact that enjoyed world-building ever since I was a child. I spent hours upon hours building entire worlds with my LEGO sets or imagined myself as a superhero and fighting crime, so it is safe to say I was quite introverted and something of a space cadet.

As for the purpose of this blog, I want to use it as a platform for my writing and as a portfolio of sorts. My current project is one I codenamed Prodigious; it is a superhero universe–or rather, multiverse, that I have spent over a decade fine-tuning. One of my main criticisms of the “Big Two” is that they have sucked the joy out of reading comic books by focusing on publicity and spectacle. Call me romantic, but I enjoy the silliness and wonder of the Silver Age and hope to capture some of it in my work. In the coming months, I will post snippets of my work: a few samples from the stories I have completed and some background information such as character profiles, places of interest, and some history as well. It is my hope that this blog can generate some interest in the project.

And as for what else lies on the horizon–well, I cannot call this blog The Musing Platypus without the “musing” part. All I have left to say is get in the car because I plan to take you on one hell of a ride.